Automated Traffic Monitoring Devices



Automated Traffic Monitoring Devices

I may be in the minority, but I’m someone who happens to value red light cameras.  What about you?  Have a look at this video and see whether it does anything to change your attitude towards these cameras:

How can anyone watch this video and not understand these drivers are simply dangerous and at a minimum need re-education.  Someone hit two pedestrians, one of which was a child, trying to cross the street!

However, the simple fact is that most, perhaps all, of the drivers captured in these videos are likely still on the road.  Why is this?  At least in Rhode Island I’ve heard it’s next to impossible to actually convict someone caught driving recklessly on a red light camera.  Why?  How can you prove that the person the car is registered to is actually driving?  I understand the argument and there is a simple solution… allow the ticket to be transferable.  If I lend my car to someone else, who is then caught going through a red light, I could go to a police station with them, have them take responsibility for having driven the car and except ownership of the ticket.  Would this work or have our societal morals degraded to a point where people are no longer able to take responsibility for their actions?

I may be in the minority, but I’m also in favor of automated speed tracking devices.  Our roadways have turned into race courses and few people care.  We don’t have, and never will have, enough police presence to effectively put an end to reckless speeding.  Thus, I truly believe the only way to correct this behavior is to automated.  Make it ubiquitous… if you speed, you’ll eventually get a ticket, guaranteed.


  • Labann
    Dec 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    There are proximity sensors on some upscale models. But they wouldn't work on such scenarios lifted from reality television. You know there are 1.3 million collisions/year globally. At the rate video shows, it would have to be months of footage to cover all of them.

    The problem is threefold: 1) Too easy to get a license. 2) Too easy to keep privilege, although Colin's Law in RI suspends licenses of repeat offenders. 3) No mandatory jail time for driving on revoked or suspended license. 4) Motoring is inherently dangerous on poorly designed streets. Note how many accidents occurred at multilane intersections with turning lanes and without shoulders? Heck, I see as many near misses every time I ride.

    Nader suggested that cars were unsafe at any speed. The risk of death to cyclists and pedestrians is less because they aren't usually traveling as fast. Speed is no blessing. According to reliable science, at 20 mph, 95% of collisions where motorists hit pedicylists are survivable. At 40 mph, only 10% are survivable. But they, fortunately, make small targets if agile enough.

  • MattyCiii
    Dec 18, 2010 at 7:41 am

    We need to take "motive" out of the equation when holding drivers responsible for collisions. People need only claim "I didn't see the {biker, pedestrian}" and are absolved of negligent homicide with no consequence whatsoever.

    In MA, a bus driver having an "incident" with a cyclist is required to get remedial training. They don't look at fault – what happened, who saw or didn't see whom – it's simply required. That's a start at least.

  • MattyCiii
    Dec 18, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Oh and yes, I'm a big fan of surveillance of our PUBLIC roads. Both through government controls like red light cameras and by private citizens. Sounds like an affront to people's rights though, yes?

    Sadly there are forces at play to disempower us all. I often record video of my rides – sometimes the camera sees pleasant things, sometimes it catches people driving to endanger. When I took video of a man in Charlestown MA threatening "If I see you again I'll run your ass over" to the Boston PD, their FIRST response was to tell me that I can be charged with a felony for recording the man without his permission this story gives some background….
    They effectively talked me out of filing an official report.

    Not next time. I'll risk the felony rap to get people like that off the streets.

  • Dec 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Sadly, there is a widespread misconception that most drivers are respectful road users. That couldn't be farther from the truth. The myth that cameras are somehow an invasion of privacy (even though it's not possible to identify anyone inside the vehicle) has also caught on and given the legislature here in MA an excuse to continue blocking red light cameras. I'm also a proponent of speed tracking but so far the only applications are on toll highways (a very small minority of all roads, and speeding on limited access highways isn't nearly as dangerous as on streets used by people).

    Street design is also really important as one of the many factors that encourage motorists to drive as fast as possible (often at deadly speeds). Unfortunately it's really difficult to improve conditions on roads like the super wide suburban arterials in the video, because motorists (and their industry lobbies) have so much influence which they use to complain of "traffic nightmares" and related nonsense.

  • Dec 19, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    When I took video of a man in Charlestown MA threatening “If I see you again I’ll run your ass over” to the Boston PD

    This is really sad. It's not as though you were posting this to the internet or doing anything to hurt this man's integrity, you were merely happened to be recording your activities and caught this activity. How can they possibly say this could result in felony charges against you?

    Remember the non famous video shot by a tourist of the police officer decking the cyclist in the NYC critical mass that came out about six months ago? Couldn't this person be threatened with the same? I don't think this charge would stand up in any court, it's not like you enticed the man into a room with the intent of video taping an outrage.

  • MattyCiii
    Dec 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm


    Appreciate the support.

    I think the issue is simpler than that (reading the link… is important here for context). I think MA cops are basically trained now that videoing (specifically audio taping) is a felony, because the MA police is afraid of embarrassment. Not meaning to disparage the cops – but they then transfer this principal to all people…. I have video of basically criminal assault, and they are trained to tell me it's a felony. But though the issue is simple, my rights are trampled and the cops talked me out of filing a report.

    I know that NYC video (the rookie cop got fired, but did not serve time for assault & battery) got me to ride my first Critical Mass (very fun time, highly recommended).

    Sadly justice in America is biased to the rich. Me, I earn/saved enough to fight such a felony rap – maybe not to the Supreme Court, but maybe enough to get national attention and support from causes (ACLU, etc.) Next time, I will file formal charges. I know that I'm probably better equipped (video camera, my own 'legal defense fund', etc.) than 99 other riders out there, and in in the end if that's the difference I can make for citizen cycling, so be it.

    Thanks again.

  • Dec 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I think MA cops are basically trained now that videoing (specifically audio taping) is a felony, because the MA police is afraid of embarrassment.

    Isn't MA one of the states which makes heavy use of video cameras in school buses, in an effort to catch lawbreakers? It would be an interesting case were a police incident to be recorded by a school bus video camera. It's another public vehicle with a camera installed…

    Perhaps you just need a big "On Air" sticker or blinking light.. this way you could be covered by the same laws which protect the press.

  • MattyCiii
    Dec 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    All reasonable suggestions considered…

    I've thought about posting a big "Smile for the camera" sign, because it's both something to "admit into evidence" any video, and possibly a deterrent for those just whizzing by…

    I read recently that EYES painted on a sign correlate to better honor-system contributions to a communal coffee mess. Something about the psychology of being watched. My take-away: I'm designing big glowing eyes to watch cars passing me. The point is, I'll do anything to make cycling on the streets safer for me, and for peers. If I have to be the test case for the Mass Supreme court, so be it.

  • barry
    Dec 20, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I agree with Mark's original point about the desirabilty of some kind of automatic speed cameras at key locations, good for pedestrians as well as bicyclists,and even some motorists at risk from speeders. Having followed the debate on red-light cameras (passed in RI with chief sponsor Rep McCauley of PVD) I note the following real objections to further action:

    opponents said it was not really for safety but for raising rvenue, a message that resonates in the current anti-tax climate.

    The ACLU saw it as an invasion of privacy. I'm a long-time member, but unsuccessfully tried to persuade them that there is no constitutional right to run red lights (or speed) and that the ACLU should only be concerned with due process, proper disposal of photos etc.

    Libertarian types see this as an a further intrusion of big-brother government . Some motorists object to anything that restricts their right to drive the way they want, noting some speed limits are unreasonably low.

    While I can sympathize somewhat with all of these objections, I still feel the trade-off to deter speeding is worth it.

  • Dennis
    Dec 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Riding home Friday night, passing through Kennedy Plaza a small car (RI tag KT 279) continued through the red light at Exchange Terrace. I sighed in disgust and then a Prov Police car passed me and followed the KT car up to the red light at Memorial. I expected lights and a ticket for the car that ran the red light, instead the Police Car pulled up next to the KT car, both waiting at the light. As I came up to the red light on Memorial I saw why there was no enforcement. The driver of the KT car was wearing a police uniform.

    Then the Police car went through the red light on Memorial.

    As we all crossed Memorial the KT car took a small lane to the right and continued through the bus tunnel to the East Side, the Police car turned left on Main.

    So why don't ordinary folk stop at red lights?

  • MattyCiii
    Dec 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Maybe recent high profile intersection fatalities (Colin Foote, Scott Wright) can be held up as examples that our intersections are dangerous, and traffic light cameras are the right solution to the problem.

    Ticket transferability might be just the key to it too, because perhaps we can then appease those concerned about privacy by intentionally trying to avoid getting a picture of the driver/passengers.

  • Bill Lewis
    Dec 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Mattyciii, you can tape your rides and you should press the case if the statute of limitations is still in effect. It has been upheld in court that there is no expectation of privacy in a public street. The audio should be stripped off as this is the wire-tap law. The visual portion is not covered and can be used.But a verbal assault will not stand up to this.

    As far as red light cams and video speed traps go they are expensive and we already have cops but making them work is nearly impossible. If the police enforced the law instead of breaking them like going through the Hope Street tunnel in a private car and running red lights at will. We would be safer whether ped or cyclist.

  • Dec 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    As far as red light cams and video speed traps go they are expensive

    Automated systems are expensive over the long run or just to install? All to often, I think government thinks of projects on too short a timetable.

    … and we already have cops but making them work is nearly impossible.

    meaning making the cops work is nearly impossible or it's impossible to get the automated systems working properly. I'll be perfectly honest, I don't know much about the various systems out there, but if ez-pass can catch the picture of a license plate at 60+ mph, their backup system were the rfid tag not to work, I find it hard to believe that the technology isn't there to make this happen.

  • Bill Lewis
    Dec 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Mark, it is as I wrote it. Making the police work is hard to do. They have discovered that they get paid whether they work or not. They do not go looking for things to do at least not in Newport. It also has the effect of lowering the crime rate as crimes not enforced are not reported.

    The Newport police(85 of them) manage to catch only one or two DUI drivers a week. I can sit outside of one bar/restaurant on one night and see more than one person obviously drunk getting into a car or truck.

    The police here do not run speed traps or enforce crosswalk laws. The do not ticket sidewalk or wrong way cyclists although this can be dangerous for both peds and cyclists as drivers aren't expecting us to be there

    I have no problem with cameras but where is all the money going to come from to pay for them? Seeing as we are already paying a lot of money for cops I'd rather see them working for their $50,000 a year base pay for rookies.

  • MattM
    Dec 23, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Ticketing a person for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in RI would be enforcing a law that doesn't exist, unless Newport has an ordinance that countervails state law. Riding on a sidewalk isn't necessarily safe, but it also isn't a ticketable offense in this state.